Seriation dating

Archaeologists use many different techniques to determine the age of a particular artifact, site, or part of a site.

Two broad categories of dating or chronometric techniques that archaeologists use are called relative and absolute dating.

Stratigraphy is the oldest of the relative dating methods that archaeologists use to date things.

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Seriation refers to the chronological ordering of artifacts of a particular class—but of different styles.

The best artifacts are those whose styles changed at a relatively rapid rate and that are found in contexts that can be independently dated using chronometric dating.

The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.

The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.

Absolute dating techniques were not available to him (radiocarbon dating wasn't invented until the 1940s); and since they were separately excavated graves, stratigraphy was no use either.

Petrie knew that styles of pottery seemed to come and go over time--in his case, he noted that some ceramic urns from the graves had handles and others had just stylized ridges in the same location on similarly shaped urns.For example, JJA Worsaae used this law to prove the Three Age System.For more information on stratigraphy and how it is used in archaeology, see the Stratigraphy glossary entry.One fashion style might be new and unpopular at first, but soon everyone is wearing it.Then, one day, the baggy neon sweater you used to love is no longer trendy and gets replaced by shoulder pads!Outside evidence, such as dating of two or more stages in the development, may be needed to determine which is the first and which the last member of the series.

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